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Jackson, L M - 'The Mesmerist's Apprentice'
Hardback: 356 pages (Apr. 2008) Publisher: William Heinemann Ltd ISBN: 0434015539

THE MESMERIST'S APPRENTICE is the follow up to A MOST DANGEROUS WOMAN which introduced feisty Victorian detective Mrs Sarah Tanner. After the events of the earlier book, Sarah is back in business with her New Dining and Coffee Rooms business on Leather Lane. Life is interrupted when a young patron claims that the pies contain horse meat. This to-do is connected to a bigger campaign to close down the butcher who supplied the meat. Equally worried for her own business survival, Sarah begins to investigate. The boy is part of a gang and her trail takes her to a solicitor's office where one of the quieter gang members is working and a murder soon follows.

At the same time, Sarah has been contacted by her former lover, Arthur DeSalle, who asks for her help. His father has had a stroke and is dying. His nurse is a sullen woman who provides little in the way of care and who has been seen in a house of ill-repute and yet she seems to have a hold over Arthur's mother. Arthur asks Sarah to investigate this woman and find proof that she's a fraud. When she follows her, Sarah discovers that she's the accomplice to a mesmerist who is trying to convince people that the 'new science' works.

Ultimately it becomes obvious that the two cases are linked, but how? Sarah goes undercover to find out what the mesmerist and his assistant are up to and puts her life in great danger.

It's great to be back in Leather Lane again along with Mrs Tanner and her friends/co-workers Norah and Ralph. I did find THE MESMERIST'S APPRENTICE a little slow to warm up but it really held my attention once Sarah went undercover; there was quite a lot of scene setting required before the main plot strand was revealed. As ever L M Jackson competently conjures up Victorian London from the slums to the nobility, and he has a strong and resourceful lead character in Sarah Tanner who can be at home in both ends of the social spectrum. He's determined to make her life unhappy though, and I await with interest what happens to her next.

Karen Meek, England
April 2008

Karen blogs at Euro Crime.

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 18/04/2008 11:21